Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Eating and Drinking At Your Desk? Keep The Noise Down!

Pay Attention To The Noise You Make While Eating and Drinking.
No, That’s Not Being Picky.

On the Ask the Workplace Doctors site, a frequent complaint involves coworkers who eat and drink noisily–especially those who do it almost constantly during the workday or shift. We hear about food odors as well as noise.  This summer I’ve heard complaints about the noise of thermal sipper cups. (First is the slurping-sipping sound, then the “ka-thunk” as the ice falls back into the cup.) It sounds picky, until you have to listen to it all day, every day. It’s distracting and irritating–and it is unncessary.

One employee said, “I’m surrounded by people crunching carrots, rustling food bags, guzzling drinks, chewing ice, slurping hot chocolate, blowing on soup then sipping it repeatedly from a spoon, munching on celery sticks, glugging from a bottle, and at least three or four people who politely but obviously, burp.  Right at this moment I can smell said chocolate as well pizza, egg rolls, burritos, leftovers of something and a hot dog–and it is not lunch time. With some of them, the eating never stops. One coworker consumes a bag of carrots a day, so the chomp, chomp sound is almost continuous. I want to scream!”

A reality of worklife is that working in close quarters requires some adjustments. Every employee has to have the courtesy and good sense to realize that to the person who isn’t eating, the sounds of eating can be very noisy and very irritating. The solution is easy:

1.) Use the break room as the eating area, not your desk or work station. 

2.) Pour your beverage into a glass or cup, if using your thermal container makes noise.

3.) Stop grazing all day–or leave the desk to do it.

4.) Be courteous and mannerly about the impact you have on those around you when you eat and drink.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask! But, an employee told me when he asked a coworker to please stop chomping ice all day, the coworker gave him a pair of earplugs and brought in an even bigger cup of ice. That is when it becomes obvious that peers are not always able to get cooperation. The supervisor is responsible for the workplace environment and supervisory intervention may be necessary.

If you are a supervisor or manager, consider talking to employees individually (not in a blast email) about the noises and smells caused by eating at desks or work stations. Then, informally monitor it when you are walking around the area. You don’t have to create a tough rule and enforce it, simply remind people of the potential for bothering others and ask for courtesy. Let employees know they can talk to you if there is a distracting or irritating situation developing.  That means you may need to do something about it–the tough part for many supervisors.

If the situation is more than minor (chewing carrots all day, chomping on ice or making other eating or drinking noises), and requests for courtesy aren’t helping, you will have to tell the bothersome employee to stop. Don’t worry, the employee won’t starve or die of thirst. But a bunch of other employees will probably silently thank you!


June 25th, 2013 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Food, Fitness, Fun, Supervision and Management | 46 comments

Tolerance Can Be Carried Too Far

Why do you put up with that??

A supervisor was telling me about an employee who was well known for lying about small issues as well as a larger ones, to the point that the employee wasn’t believed by anyone. 

I asked the supervisor if he had ever confronted the employee about it. “Nah. It makes him feel important, so we all just act like we believe him and walk away shaking our heads.” I don’t think that person’s lack of integrity and respect for others is a trivial matter to them, so this was very frustrating for me to hear.

Someone else was telling me about a coworker who is officious and bosses her and everyone else around. I asked her why she puts up with it and she said if she tried to stop it the coworker would be hurt, so she and everyone else has learned to tolerate it.  I see this a lot: They care more about her feelings than she cares about theirs.

A woman told me about the rants she endures from a coworker who has extreme and angry opinions about everything from politics to religion to social issues and street maintenance, etc., etc., ad naseam.  She said she used to be upset and distracted all day but she has learned to tolerate it so they can get along. Apparently she feels she should be the one to work at getting along, while the coworker can do anything he wants.

I don’t advocate continual confrontation about every small difference of style or opinion. But, it’s foolish and harmful for the majority of people in a workplace to “learn” to tolerate the one or two who are unpleasant or problematic. We create entitled royalty who think they can do or say anything they want–because the reality is, they can.

The next time you wonder why you have a coworker or employee who is unpleasasant or who gossips, gets angry, refuses to cooperate with someone, is disruptive or who exhibits other bad behavior, look no further for the answer than the people who put up with it–coworkers and/or bosses.

If you have sincerely tried to stop the situation and approached it the right way but have been shut down by managers or others, you have my sympathy and also my appreciation and admiration. If you have been tolerating something that continues to bother you, remember that tolerance isn’t always a good thing.  Sometimes what we call tolerance is just a lack of courage. Show some courage this week and speak up about something you shouldn’t be tolerating.  

May 27th, 2012 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 4 comments

Stir Your Own Beans (Mind Your Own Business)

I was reading an article about the diet of pioneers on their journeys to the West.  It said a party of four was advised to bring: 600 pounds of flour, 400 pounds of bacon, 200 pounds of dried beans, 120 pounds of biscuits (probably the “hardtack” kind, not fluffy ones), 120 pounds of dried fruit, and pounds of other items such as seasonings, sugar and various chemicals.

Although meat was hunted and fish was caught along the trail, often beans were the main food.  The article commented that both men and women cooked on the trip, but one thing was a no-no: Cooks didn’t go to other campfires to give advice. They stayed at their own wagon and–to use the phrase I adopted for this article–stirred their own beans. 

Don’t you wish people you interact with at work would heed that advice? We all need to spend more time stirring our own beans and less time stirring the beans of others, so to speak. (I’m sure there’s something vaguely off-color about that analogy, but it still makes sense to me!)

There are certainly times when advice or help is asked for and you can give it briefly, then step back and let the person take care of things on their own. There are also times when the outcome is your responsibility and you need to do more than give advice, you need to correct or completely change the way something is done. (Even then, you need to be certain the change is really, truly necessary.) Those situations involve minding business that is yours or at least partly yours. 

The advice or false help that isn’t needed or wanted is when it is merely meddling. For example, you’re working very hard–maybe rushing–on a project or task that you have expertise in and experience doing. In the middle of that, someone who has plenty of his or her own work to do and knows nothing about what it takes to do your work, gets involved under the guise of helping. 

*”I know you were placing those orders but I went ahead and did ours so you wouldn’t have to.”
*”I saw the handouts on the copying machine so I distributed them.”
*”I know you said you wanted to contact people personally, but I was in the meeting so I told them about it already.” 
*”You said you’d bring it, but I wasn’t sure you’d remember, so I brought some too.”
*”I know you use that vendor, but I’m sure you can get it cheaper if you just check around.”
*”I put those tools away because I didn’t think you were using them.”
*”That’s no way to do it. Here, move over and let me show you how.”
*”I know it’s not my business, but really, don’t you think you should do this instead?’

 If you try to explain why the advice isn’t very helpful the rescuer will usually insist it could be helpful if only you would see it their way. Finally, if you’re not very gentle about it, you’ll get a huffy, “I was only trying to help.” as Mr. Fixit or Ms. Rescuer hangs up or stalks off.

The bottom line: Most of us have enough problems handling our own work without trying to tell others how to do theirs. If something being done by someone else will harm your own ability to work, that’s one thing. But, if you just think you have a better idea, can show how smart you are, want to rescue people and make them grateful to you, or whatever your other motivation might be, stay at your own campfire and stir your own beans.

This is a cookbook with some good recipes and interesting tips from pioneer times.

March 1st, 2012 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers | 6 comments

Warnings Should Include Consequences

There is a difference between a warning and an admonishment–but many supervisors don’t recognize the difference and fail to warn in a way that prevents a problem in the future.

An Admonishment Is Mild But Pointed Advice

An admonishment is a brief word of advice, counsel, maybe mild-mannered reproof.  “Becky, you do a great job when you get here, but you’ve been late three times now. We need you here on time, especially on the days you open up.”

An admonishment can also be delivered using a light tone and even a slightly humorous approach: “Hey Ken, stop throwing trash in the parking lot, it looks bad enough without your generous contributions.”

For most situations, an admonishment is enough to get good results. I recall the thought in a book for police sergeants: “To a mature  employee a suggestion is construed as an order.” 

Unfortunately, supervisors and managers often think an admonishment is a sufficient warning and they are frustrated and angry when the employee does the thing again. If they want to make sure the employee doesn’t do it again, they need to warn and give consequences.  

A Warning Is A Promise About What Will Happen

A warning can be formal or informal, verbal or written.  “Becky, you’re doing a good job otherwise, but you’ve been late three times now. The next time you’re late I’m going to have to put it in your permanent record and give you a formal reprimand. I don’t want to have to do that, so be on time from now on.”

Or, “Ken, after the last incident with you throwing trash in the parking lot after I had asked you not to, I recommended a formal warning and HR  approved it. This is your last warning. The next incident will result in loss of a day off.”

Employees Get As Confused as Supervisors

Last week an employee complained to me that she was getting in serious trouble because she continued to do something after she was warned not to. She said she hadn’t been warned, in fact her supervisor was laughing about it when he talked to her so she didn’t take it seriously.

The supervisor’s view was that a reasonable person would know his light-hearted remarks were a warning. I asked him if he had, in the midst of being light-hearted, told the employee what would happen if she did it again. He said no, but surely she realized she would get some sort of sanction.

Was that an effective warning or merely an admonishment? His HR Department and his manager viewed that he had not warned the employee because he hadn’t told her what would happen next.  His manager told him that if he had warned her, it would also have reminded him that he had an obligation to follow through, whereas with an admonishment there is no follow-through mentioned.

The bottom line: The reason many employees continue their problematic behavior or performance is because they are admonished, but they are not warned. The reason many supervisors get frustrated with continual problems is that they think they are warning, but without consequences it’s just advice that the employee may not take.

I like the warning on the sign in the photo. I asked a police officer in that town, Griffin, Georgia (my place of birth), if many people hit the bridge. He said it happens now and then, but not nearly as often as it did when the sign just said, “Danger, Low Bridge. No trucks or loads over 16′ high.”

Knowing the consequences and knowing what actions will result in those consequences can make all the difference in what a person does next.

January 15th, 2012 Posted by | Assessment Centers and Interviews, Challenging and Problematic People, Supervision and Management | 5 comments

One More Time: Avoid Embarrassing People In CCed Emails

Think Before You CC

This may seem to be my One Tune Topic for the last few months, but it seems that it cannot be emphasized enough. Consider these snippets from emails, all which were copied to several people (some not even part of the organizations involved.)

• “If you don’t have the skill to do it, at least send it to someone who knows how to do their job and stop wasting my time.”

• “Your email makes no sense at all. Rewrite please.”

• “I have tried to resolve this situation amicably only to face your nastiness time after time.”

• “I reviewed the work of you and your committee and frankly am amazed that you would consider this to be the quality I expected, especially from someone who is supposedly trained to do this kind of thing. If this is an example of your work, we need to be talking about getting you some additional training. There is no way I could list the problems in one email, so apparently I will have to take the time to meet and work on this with you. I’m available Friday afternoon but after that will be gone for two weeks, so let me know if you can meet then.”

• “Re: Your request to attend the conference. No.”

I’ve changed some details in those emails to protect the organization and those who sent the examples to me, but they are all essentially real. How would you like to be CCed on those? How would you like to be the recipients? How does it present the sender? Will any of them improve things?

What If Nothing Else Is Working?

In one of the examples above I was blind copied but several others were obviously copied. I immediately called the sender to register my dismay. She said, “Well, nothing else has worked and I figured if I embarrassed her maybe she would finally do something.”

Do you think that will happen? Even if it does, will the damage ever go away completely?

If the performance or behavior of an employee you supervise concerns you, talk to the employee directly by phone or in a personal email. No employee I’ve ever met develops a more positive approach to work as the result of being chided in a message that is copied to others. If the thing that concerns you is something that others need to be reminded of as well, handle it with a training approach for all, after you have dealt with the other employee personally.

If a coworker is the source of frustration or anger, talk to your manager or supervisor and be factual about what is concerning you. If you CC your manager in an unpleasant email you may find that both the employee and the manager resent your method of informing. That doesn’t mean you should ignore problems, it just means you should be direct not sneaky.

If you have something unpleasant or discomfiting to say to anyone, say it to them alone. Don’t wait until you are in an email “room” and bring it up. Have you noticed how brave or tough people can be when they are showing off for others!

“Look what a tough leader I am?” “Look how direct I am.” “See how I tell people where I stand?” “Notice that I don’t take anything from anyone?” “See how saintly I am compared to that other person?”  Those are the underlying messages conveyed by unneeded CCs. 

If you receive an awkward, embarrassing or inappropriate copied email, let the recipient know you would prefer to not be included on such things. If those who CC were told it was unnecessary or uncomfortable they would be far less likely to preen over their rough and ready approach. If you are a manager, stop such copying when you see it happening. If you are a subordinate, consider doing what one employee told me about: He wrote back directly to the manager and said, “I don’t think I was supposed to be included in that correspondence, but I want you to know that I have deleted it and won’t say anything about it.”

Whatever you do, don’t even inadvertently encourage the kind of rudeness that is the hallmark of unnecessary CCs or BCs.

The bottom line: There is a time for putting your concerns or frustrations in writing. Not all unpleasant mail is inappropriate. However, when you intend to correct someone or negatively critique their performance or behavior, think, think and think again before copying others. There may be rare times when it is needed, but most often, it is not. You and your reputation and effectiveness will be diminished in proportion to how many people you CC unnecessarily.

August 1st, 2011 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 5 comments

Correcting Work Problems With Precision

Two Big Questions About
Performance or Behavior Problems At Work

When a supervisor or manager becomes aware of an error in performance or behavior the first two questions to consider are these:

1. What was done wrong? 

2. Who did it the wrong way?

Before you cringe at those tough questions, consider how crucial they are for ensuring precision about correcting problem performance and behavior at work. Without that initial analysis of a problem supervisors can make mistakes that create huge levels of resentment and frustration–and work problems can continue for years. (As they often do!)

What Was Done Wrong?

A precise statement about the behavior or performance error will help keep the focus on the primary concern. Secondary issues may be disclosed and may be part of solving larger problems. However, the problem that started it all should be corrected immediately with direction or assistance from the supervisor or manager. Or, the employee should make a clear committment about his or her plans to ensure the error never happens again.

Who Did It The Wrong Way?

Supervisors should discover precisely who didn’t turn in their widget budget, what shift most often loses widget folders, what is the average experience of those who have failed to tighten the widget bolt, who was late to the widget meeting and who hung up on the person calling about widgets. That information will ensure precision about how to focus retraining or corrective actions and how to prevent future problems. 

Being precise about responsiblity will also prevent scattergun correction in which all employees are retrained or lectured for what only one person did incorrectly. If a supervisor or manager is concerned that one error is just the tip of an iceberg, it would be appropriate to discuss a process or program with everyone. But those discussions should not imply that everyone has done something wrong–especially when they know precisely who did!  

The bottom line: There are many other questions to ask and answer on the way to correcting performance or behavior problems at work. But, thinking back over your career, wouldn’t it have been a good thing for your managers and supervisors to have been more precise about what was done wrong and who did it–and what they were going to do about it?

July 19th, 2011 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | 3 comments

Playing Favorites as a Manager

Who Are The Favorites At Your Work? 

President Lyndon Johnson’s comment applies to the way some managers treat employees:

“There are no favorites in my office. I treat everyone with the same general inconsideration.”

Most other managers have to work at not seeming to favor one or two employees over others. Sometimes there are no favored employees but there are employees who are definitely out of favor and that is even more of a challenge.

What makes favorites?

  • Some people are just more pleasant to be around than others. These employees are often favorites with employees at all levels.
  • When the employee and the manager have things in common outside of work, there is a tendency to gravitate to that employee for conversation.
  • If a supervisor or manager has had a long and positive history with one or two employees there tends to be a connection and loyalty.
  • Some employees have proven themselves to be more dependable, trustworthy and skillful than others, so it’s logical for the manager to seek their thoughts first.
  • Some employees have ingratiated themselves to managers by being a source of information about employees or by saying what the manager wants to hear. Sometimes there are inappropriate personal relationships.

Even if every employee is equally competent and pleasant and there are no nefarious circumstances, a supervisor or manager will probably have an affinity for one or two employees over others because of shared work experiences, similar communication styles or for some other reason. (The same thing applies to coworkers.)

How is it shown? Usually it’s very obvious who the favorites are at work. Sometimes its not a cause for conflict, but carried to extreme it nearly always is. That’s why supervisors and managers need to avoid the actions that send that message:

  • Frequent lunches or breaks with the favored employee and rarely with anyone else.
  • More conversations, laughing and personal talk.
  • Spending time together away from work.
  • The favored person is often seen in the boss’s office, apparently only chatting or talking about non-work issues. 
  • The favored person seems to have more influence and is given rewards in assignments, working conditions or other perks.
  • When the favorite makes a mistake the manager accepts excuses more easily than he or she would from others.

What is the result? The more someone is treated as a favorite and someone else is not, the more likely it is that the individuals involved will do things to reinforce the manger’s feelings. There are other negative results as well:

  • It becomes a source of gossip and speculation, which detracts from the focus on work.
  • Sometime the favored person is rejected by coworkers.
  • Sometimes the unfavored person is pushed out even more by coworkers because they sense the weakened situation.
  • The favored employee often is able to get by with things that others would not.
  • If an employee feels rejected or pushed out by the manager, it can cause anger, frustration or depression. It can create stress and lead to many emotional, health and work problems. Any existing problems will probably get worse.
  • It weakens the reputation and leadership of the manager or supervisor to be seen as playing favorites.

How can a manager or supervisor avoid the appearance of favoritism?

  • Be purposeful about communications at work.  Ensure that you have a mix of conversations with everyone. Don’t make it all fun with one employee and all unpleasant work topics with another.
  • Rotate through all employees for going to coffee or lunch or taking them along to meetings. Go with two employees at a time if you can’t bring yourself to spend half an hour alone with Greg the Griper.
  • Watch the non-verbal communication. If you smile at Laura every time you see her, but keep walking when you see Karen, it will be noticed. If you defer to Bob in meetings but usually read your notes when Bill is talking, that will be noticed too.
  • Ask for another opinion when making decisions that you know might appear to be for a favored employee or long-time friend or against a non-favored person. Seeking another opinion is a documentable action that can be very helpful if there are questions about your decision.

The bottom line: Every workplace is different, so what indicates favoritism in one may not be the same as in another. How to avoid it and fix it may vary as well. The point is to not let your bias toward or against any employee or group of employees be obvious.

You may not feel the same way about all employees; you may have very good reasons for having more positive feelings about one than another; you may not be able to conceal your personal preferences completely. But, it’s wrong and harmful to the workplace to give the impression that you have your own personal caste sytem.

March 25th, 2011 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 5 comments

Socks And People That Make You Miserable

You can’t knit people to fit your wants, needs and plans for them–but you don’t have to accept socks that don’t fit well or that make you miserable, either.

This could be about accepting people, identifying the challenges of similarities and differences between us and them or just about the fact that we’re all a mixed bag. We aren’t what we want to be most of the time and we wouldn’t know how to make the perfect person for us–at work, as a supervisor or manager, in personal relationships or business contacts–even if we had the raw components and were given Cosmic power to do it. We think we do, but we probably don’t.

Given that fact, we have to accept the other facts: No one is the right kind of person for us all the time. No one says, does and responds the best way all the time. Even the best people can disappoint you and even the worst people can positively surprise you. The key to surviving and thriving is to know when to accept, when to shrug off, when to forgive, when to adamantly complain, when to re-train, when to warn of consequences, when to sanction formally and when to exit them or exit yourself.

One thing is for sure: Although we can insist upon some changes and make them happen if we have enough authority or influence (come to work on time, don’t gossip about coworkers, get your work done in a one day turn-around, don’t use that language, don’t treat me in that way again, flush, etc.), only the individual can change his or her mind and basic character and approach to life–and often that is not very successful.

If you want to know how difficult it will be for you to change someone, try changing yourself. If you want to know how difficult it will be for the other guy to change himself or learn new habits, try changing yourself or learning new habits. Translate your fifteen pound weight gain over a lifetime–the one you can’t seem to get rid of now because you eat too much and don’t exercise enough–into some of the habits and behaviors of the employee who doesn’t get work done on time or does poor quality work, creates conflicts in the office or gets repeated complaints from customers. Do you think he or she will change unless the penalities are so great there is no choice?


Decision times are tough. But once you’ve made the decision, keeping at it is all it takes. In my classes about working with challenging employees I often have each participant talk to their desk partners about the most challenging employee with which they are dealing. They are supposed to end that conversation by saying, “Here is what I am doing about it when I get back to work.” Invariably some participants laugh through that part as though they know it’s impossible and it’s a joke to even consider it.  It becomes obvious that one or two want tips and techniques that don’t require them to do anything overt about the employee’s behavior or performance. Sadly, they will require everyone else to put up with a problem employee in order to avoid the discomfort of doing something about it. So, who is the biggest challenge in that situation?

The bottom line: Ask for changes when you can. Insist upon them when it is possible. If you are a coworker, document your complaints,  go to the right person about them and ask for an investigation with the goal of change;  if you are a supervisor provide assistance, encourage and support, correct and encourage again. But, if those things aren’t at least starting to work after a reasonable amount of time for the situation (sometimes that’s a brief amount of time, sometimes a longer amount) you will need to do something that might make the other person uncomfortable, resentful or very angry. You may have to unravel his life and work, to use the sock analogy, to get the change that is required.  That is when it’s time for the Davy Crockett advice: Be sure you’re right, then go ahead. 

March 6th, 2011 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | 9 comments

Is There An Acceptable Excuse For Bad Work?

Unacceptable  Excuses

* “I know I said I’d remove your ruptured appendix today. But, with the holidays and taking some time off and things like that, I’ve been really, really busy. So, it looks like you’re going to need to give me a couple of weeks extension on that job. OK?” 

* “Herman felt really bad about not fixing your brakes, what with you having the accident and getting the broken neck and pelvis and all of that. Just between you and me, I think he’s having some problems at home right now, so you know how that goes.”

* “Yeah, I know you were overcharged $32.75 on your groceries. But, I think you’re overlooking all the times you’ve been charged the right amount.”

* “I know, I know, Mildred shouldn’t have gotten so busy that she forgot to issue your paycheck again this week. But, she said you really frowned at her when you asked her about it. So, it sounds like no one is blameless in this situation.”

Don’t you get tired of hearing excuses for
late work, bad work and no work? 

You don’t want to hear excuses when it comes to being a customer, client or patient.You sure don’t want to be blamed for problems! What you want is the work you paid for, done in a respectful way. That is what everyone wants, whether they are an internal or external customer. Some ways to ensure it:

*Don’t even consider the option of not doing work well and on time. If you are a manager, never let employees think it will be OK to do substandard work or to miss deadlines. If training is needed, work loads adjusted, time managed better or resources provided, that’s something you should work with employees about. But, the final work product should be done correctly by someone.

*Don’t let there be problems with your work. If you see problems developing, do something to fix them well before the deadline. Learn the knowledge and skills needed to do your job right, on time and in a way that builds good relationships with others.

*If you are responsible for the work of others, have an attitude of expectation that work will be done right.You can do that in a pleasant, professional and friendly way. Isn’t that what we think of leaders doing?

*Question a bit, to find out exactly what prevented work from being done correctly and on time. Don’t accept vague, non-specific excuses without finding out the facts. Then, work with the employee to develop the solution for next time and ensure it is implemented.

*Investigate when you are told that some other person or group caused the delay or the mistakes. Find out for sure what happened. If there were problems caused by others, do something to keep your employees from having to deal with that again–or help them learn to work through it.  However, don’t let them develop the habit of blaming, to get off the hook themselves.

*Don’t lower standards of performance and behavior. Do not, in the name of being understanding, allow poor work or late work to be acceptable, just so long as the employee has a reason or an excuse.  That’s not being unreasonably harsh. It’s what you’d want at the factory that made your car, the pharmacy where you get your prescription, the person who provides care for your children or the restaurant that prepares your food.

Make excellent work and effective communications the norm–not a surprise. Make excuses an unacceptable alternative for yourself and others.

“Oftentimes excusing of a fault
Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse.”
Shakespeare, in King John.

January 19th, 2011 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 11 comments

Stop It.

What are you doing at work that could get you in trouble? 
Someone else at work probably knows.

Most people who get caught at work in an unethical action or a violation of a policy, rule or procedure, never thought they would be reported, complained about or found out. They gamble with their reputations, jobs, professional status, income and families because, even though they know the risks, they think they will be the one person who doesn’t get caught.  When the inevitable happens they apologize, offer to make amends and often cry over the bad results of their decisions and actions. You’ve seen it or heard about it far too many times. 

I think most people who accept responsibility for their actions sincerely do regret the poor decisions that led to the bad results. They probably all wish they could turn back time and get a do-over.  One person told me on the day of his demotion, which was also the day his wife filed for divorce about a work situation,  “I worried about it the first few times I did it, then I guess I just thought I had it figured out so no one would ever know. I’d give everything I possess to get the chance to do it over.” 

There are no do overs, there is only don’t do.

One reason I feel so strongly about supervisory intervention is because I think we could save our organizations from a lot of problems and embarrassment and save employees from themselves if we intervene before the harm or at the very first indicator of a problem. 

All it requires is that supervisors and managers monitor work behavior and performance appropriately for the job and talk to employees about potential problems as well as observable problems. Supervisors and managers often need to be the stop sign.

What is going to happen when you are found out?

Ultimately the best intervention is that which is done by our personal ethical and moral characters and our fears of what will happen if we are caught. That latter is just as valid as the former and it sometimes has a much stronger effect on our decisions! 

Any time you consider doing something you know isn’t quite right or is blatantly wrong,  picture  being confronted about it down the line when your involvement is known. Think about the worse case scenario of what could happen to your job, your family, your income, your future and your reputation.  Don’t think if  you are found out,  think, when you are found out. Then, ask yourself if what you’re considering doing is worth that result. Think about how you will feel when you wish you could have a do-over. Then, make the right decision right then.

If you’re doing something now that could spell disaster if it were known, stop it. If you need help to conquer an addiction, a psychological problem or a destructive habit, get that help right away. Get legal advice if you need it. Stay away from temptation from now on and resist it when you feel it. You know that is what you would say to others, so take the advice yourself.

The bottom line: You’re living in a fool’s paradise if you think no one knows or will never find out about the secret thing you’ve been doing or that they don’t care about the problem behavior or performance you’ve been showing. 

*If you’ve been doing something wrong that involves someone else, they probably have talked about it already or they will when you’re not friends anymore or if they start feeling guilty.
*If it involves company resources, someone is probably tracking it or will be.
*If it involves technology, someone probably has the evidence.
*If  your actions have made work life unpleasant for others, they’re already documenting it and will complain at some point if you continue.
*If you’re cutting corners on your time, attendance or work, someone is probably keeping a record.
*If you have active enemies, they are watching for something to report.
*Even if what you are doing is not a crime or a huge ethical violation or severe problem, remember that the truth probably will come out at some point–maybe at the worst possible time when you will wish you didn’t have to deal with it.

Read the news of the latest scandal, crime, shameful misdeeds or organizational shake-ups and realize none of those people thought they would be caught or that anyone would complain. Think about the people who have been fired from your work or who were demoted or lost their influence and reputations. They didn’t think they’d be found out or reported either. Let those events remind you of what can happen, often to otherwise decent people–like you.

You should feel afraid of what might happen and I hope you are–afraid enough to stop it.

December 26th, 2010 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 5 comments

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